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Astronomers find 72 new galaxies deep in the universe

Hubble Ultra-Deep Field region observed through the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer. Image: ESO / MUSE HUDF collaboration

Astronomers working with the Very Large Telescope in Chile have surveyed a patch of the sky and detected 72 new galaxies never seen before.

What's new: Beginning in 2004, the Hubble Space Telescope delivered detailed pictures of a patch of sky that now bears its name — the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field is a view nearly 13 billion years back into the early universe. Using the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument, researchers again looked at this well-studied region and found 72 new galaxies and collected more information about 1,600 of the estimated 10,000 galaxies there. (The existence of the new galaxies needs to be confirmed, possibly by the James Webb Space Telescope when it launches next year.)

How they did it: MUSE measures the amount of different colors of light in every pixel of an image, allowing it to detect properties of galaxies not seen before. Two findings from 10 papers published today in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics:

  • The 72 candidate galaxies emit only one color of light called Lyman-alpha. It's unclear how these galaxies form but studying them will help to better understand how they created stars in the early universe.
  • They also observed halos of hydrogen gas around some of the galaxies that may help to explain how the ingredients for galaxies come together.
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